My experience with wargames started a long time ago. In my early teens, I started gaming with Dungeons and Dragons, and while I had a great time with it, it was another TSR game that got me on the path I’m on now. I bought Dawn Patrol. World War I aircraft have always fascinated me and now I was going to have a chance to play them. Unfortunately, there weren’t any other kids my age who were interested, so no opponents. I must have set that game up hundreds of times and moved the pieces around hoping that one day I would be able to play it.
Not long after that, I sent off for a catalog from Wargames West. Ah the games I could buy! I bought Wooden Ships and Iron Men, Panzer Leader, Drive On Stalingrad and a couple of mini games, but the only opponent I would ever find in my teen years was my best friend and we played the mini game “The Alamo” once. I don’t even remember who made it.
After a stretch of life where those games just moved from one place to another with me and sat on bookshelves unplayed, I got married. Oddly enough, it would be my wife who would get me started actually playing wargames. She bought ‘Battle Hymn’ and ‘Leatherneck’ for me. Oh-ho! What was this? Solitaire wargaming by Victory Games. Finally I would be able to play even without an opponent. Loved it.
After placing a ‘Looking for opponents’ paper in the local game shop (you know, the ones you make with the tear off phone numbers on tabs at the bottom) looking to play some of the games that had sat on my shelves for years, I got a phone call. Mike had pulled one of the tabs and called me. He asked ‘Have you played the best wargame?’ Come on out and I’ll show you. Thus began over 20 years of playing Advanced Squad Leader. I found all the components (rule book, modules, etc.) over the years with Mike’s help. And despite my inability to play it with any skill, I remain addicted to it.
During my ASL career, Mike and the other guys here in town were playing other games too. Mike, Bud and Greg’s collections are huge but I never wanted to play anything other than ASL. I only beat Mike a handful of times over the 20+ years we have played. When you know that we played every week for a while, then every other week for a while, that is a lot of me getting my butt kicked. I experienced frustration at times, but soldiered on.
As I wrote in another section here on my blog, when you play the same opponent for so long, he knows what you are going to do before you do it, and Mike had me all figured out. I was out-classed and overmatched every time we played. What can I say? Mike is simply pretty darn good at ASL, evidenced by his occasional undefeated record at the yearly tournament we attend. It was time to take a (perhaps long) break from ASL and look at playing something else for a bit.
Mike’s game collection is pretty nice, but he had a bunch that he had never played so we decided to knock those out and get them on his ‘played’ list. Thus began my branching out to other wargames.
We have played The US Civil War, Ukraine ’43, Guilford, Vietnam 1965-1975, Sekigahara, Dien Bien Phu: The Final Gamble and a couple others. Apparently, everyone but me knew that ASL wasn’t the only game in the world worth playing, and I have purchased my first non-ASL game since I was in my 20’s with Sekigahara, a game that not only models a conflict in a time period and in a subject that I really like, but is pretty incredible to play. I also have Dien Bien Phu on pre-order for the reprint, another fabulous game. One other thing I have realized is that I tend to come out on the victory side of the ledger more often which definitely increases the fun factor in wargaming for me.
I will continue to play ASL as much as I can, maybe someday I will become competent at it, but until then I have finally branched out and I kinda like it. Oh, and with Mike waiting almost 20 years for Korea ASL, and the module actually on the way, we are going to play Squad Leader again for a bit.
Gaming life is good.